By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal
HUNTINGTON – New buildings and renovations to several campus structures are envisioned in a new Marshall University master plan now taking shape.
Required by the state Higher Education Policy Commission, the 10-year plan must be completed and submitted to the commission for its approval by the end of 2013. The last such plan was put in place in 2003. Work on the new plan began in November 2012. A consortium of consultants, headed by SmithGroup JJR of Ann Arbor, Mich., is preparing the plan for Marshall.
Mary Jukuri, senior campus planner with SmithGroup, says the planners envision no significant expansion in size for the university's main Huntington campus.
"Instead our aim is to better utilize the existing campus," Jukuri told a July 18 campus briefing. The planners, she said, are keeping in mind that today's tighter education budgets dictate "a more resource-constrained environment." Even so, she said, Marshall has needs that should be addressed, including additional classrooms and research space, additional residence halls and expanded recreation opportunities.
The current site of Holderby Hall on 5th Avenue would be an ideal central location for a new high-tech classroom building, Jukuri told the briefing. Holderby is outdated and not suitable for renovation, she said, thus its demolition is being recommended.
With the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center already in place and the new Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Complex now under construction, 3rd Avenue is ideally poised to become a "research corridor" for Marshall, she said. The current version of the master plan envisions new residence halls located across 5th Avenue from the current Twin Towers dorms. There's also a clear need for additional space and facilities at the Memorial Student Center, Jukuri said.
The plan proposes renovations and/or expansions for a number of buildings, including Jenkins Hall, Cam Henderson Center, Gullickson Hall, East Hall and the Science Building.
Noting that neither 3rd nor 5th avenues are currently carrying traffic at their full capacity, planners are recommending that each be reduced to three lanes rather than the current four. The planning team noted that pedestrians often find it difficult to cross the two broad avenues, and removing one lane would provide room for infrastructure improvements in the name of safety, plus the possible inclusion of bike lanes.
Students and campus visitors who complain about never being able to find a campus parking spot will find little to cheer about in the plan being developed. Marshall's current 4,300 parking spaces are more than adequate for a school its size, Jukuri said, noting that not all the current lots and garages are being fully utilized. Increased utilization might be obtained from revising the way parking is regulated, she said. An effort is needed to encourage daily use of the parking spaces at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, she said.
The university's new parking garage on 6th Avenue has been designed for expansion, but that should not be undertaken while other parking spaces aren't being fully utilized, she said.
The planners labeled current bus service for the campus inadequate, with long wait times between buses, and said they will urge the university to work with the Tri-State Transit Authority to obtain possible route and scheduling changes to better serve the campus.
When completed, the plan will address not only the future needs of the university's Huntington campus but also its South Charleston campus and its Mid-Ohio Valley and Teays Valley centers.
Marshall Chief of Staff Matt Turner has emphasized that the plan is very much a "work in progress and subject to change as we sort through the process."
The next public update on the plan is scheduled for September. Jukuri said the hope is to have the completed plan ready for presentation to the Marshall Board of Governors in October and the Higher Education Policy Commission in December.